Meeting The Orthodox (Page 16 of 25)

By: Fr. Thomas HopkoRead time: 40 mins11778 Hits

16. Church and World

This sounds awfully other-worldly! Doesn’t the Church have any more direct relationship to the life of this world and the good of the human society right now?

We have already said that the Church is the experience of the life of the world and of human society as it should be in God. At the liturgy, for example, we are given the “vision” of what life and society are all about; what they should be when perfect, filled with the Presence of God.

However, although it has to be clearly understood that the clergy are strictly forbidden direct involvement in the life of this world, according to Orthodox canon law, because their sole function is to stand for the Kingdom of God which is not of this world, Christian people are not only the clergy, and the Church is not only those who are in “holy orders.”

The Church is the whole body of faithful. We have talked about this before. And the body of believers in God are certainly in the world bearing witness in every possible way — social, political, economic — to that very Kingdom which is not of this world.

And if, as we have said, the purpose of man is to become holy and godlike and to suffer for truth and love in communion with Christ Himself, then it must be seen that there is no other place for man to do these things than in this present world right here and now.

Thus, although the church as the church cannot possibly be reduced to the relative categories of this world, the Christians who live in this world must certainly use every means available to make this world as much as possible the expression of that Kingdom of God which is to come in the final revelation of Christ. They must know as well that they will never succeed absolutely in their efforts and will usually be greatly resisted. We come once again to the significance of the cross.

Also it must be mentioned that since the values of this world are always relative, and the concrete action of witnessing to the Kingdom of God is not always that simple and easy to determine, each individual Christian must be left free to make his political decisions and actions according to his own conscience. The Church can give principles and provide the vision of perfection, but it cannot dictate concrete policies and actions in this or that given instance.


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